Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 3, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: None

8 7 6
A 10 8
A K Q J 3 2
West East
K Q 5 10 9 4 3 2
5 3 2 6
A Q J 10 9 7 K 4
10 9 7 6 5 4
K Q J 9 7 4
6 5 3 2


South West North East
1 2 4 Pass
4 Pass 5 Pass
5 Pass 6 All Pass

Opening Lead: King

“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

— Benjamin Franklin

We all know a few more-than-senior citizens who love to play bridge. But few couples have grown old as gracefully as Sidney and Lillian Matthews. A few years ago Sidney celebrated his 100th birthday in Marbella. At that dinner Sidney, still an enthusiastic golfer, announced his retirement as a bridge tournament director, but gave no indication he was ready to stop playing for the foreseeable future.


Matthews had recently played this hand in a duplicate pairs, which he was also directing. West led the spade king against six hearts. Matthews won with his ace, then led two rounds of trump to discover that the overcaller had started with three.


Having escaped a diamond lead, declarer appreciated that as long as clubs broke no worse than 4-2, he could discard his five losers in hand on dummy’s clubs. But Sidney thought that he should secure his slam against a 5-1 break, even at the expense of an overtrick. How right he was, for after cashing the club ace, then ruffing a club high in hand, he saw West discard a diamond.


A heart to dummy drew the last trump, and Sidney was home in a slam that few pairs had bid, and even fewer had brought home. The logic behind the successful line is that if making your contract will secure you a good score, the merits of playing for an overtrick are strictly limited.

ANSWER: Declarer has shown eight playing tricks in spades, and dummy will be very weak, so ask yourself which lead is least likely to give away a trick or take a finesse for declarer he could not take himself. Partner will probably have a balanced 12-14 points, and on that basis a trump rates to be least likely to cost a trick. A club is a VERY close second, though.


South Holds:

J 4 2
Q 8 5
Q 10 6 3
J 8 4


South West North East
    1 Dbl.
Pass 1 Pass 2
All Pass      


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Amnon HarelMay 18th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Dear Bobby,

Maybe I’m missing something obvious here, but: which club is a close second, the J or the 4? Conceptually do you treat the J as an honor here? Do you treat clubs as partner’s bid suit even if it only promised 2 of them?



Bobby WolffMay 18th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Hi Amnon,

Welcome back.

The 2 of clubs would be a very close 2d choice to a trump lead. Even though partner may have promised only 2 clubs (usually played by partnerships who like to have 4 diamonds to open the bidding 1 diamond). there is no real reason to believe that partner has 2 or even only 3 clubs.

A partnership can get in trouble when they start fearing low percentage holdings with their partner and start over allowing for them.

I definitely do treat the Jack of clubs as an honor and would not lead it. Declarer could easily have AQ10 or AK10 of clubs and away might go our natural club trick. In any event I prefer a low spade lead.

Thanks for writing and hope that all is well with you.